The authorities in Egypt have announced that works have started on the extension of the Suez Canal to allow two-way traffic. The investment is intended to prevent incidents similar to the one in April when the Ever Given container ship blocked the route.
“The work has begun in accordance with the directives of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to immediately start implementing the proposed development plan and establish a timeline for its completion as soon as possible,” the Suez Canal Authority reported.
The Canal Authority plans to extend the second route, which opened in 2015, by 10 km. In total, it is to be 82 km long.
In addition, the southern section of the Suez Canal is to be widened by 40 metres. The Egyptian authorities also intend to dredge the canal to 72 feet (nearly 22 m) as currently, its depth is 66 feet (20.1 m).
No information has been given as to the cost of the investment or how long it will take.
Ultimately, Egypt plans for the canal to consist of two lines along its entire length. Currently, such a solution is only provided north of the Great Bitter Lake, and not in the entire section anyway.
Aftermath of the March blockade
In late March, the container ship Ever Given ran aground in the southern section of the Suez Canal, completely blocking ship traffic. The week-long blockade led to a gigantic logjam involving some 400 units.
The blockage of the Egyptian seaway was followed a few weeks later by congestion in European ports due to the cumulative arrival of more ships stuck in the logjam at the Suez Canal.
Next, congestion in the ports caused delays in the return of containers to China, which in turn affected the export capacity of local businesses as well as shipping rates, which have started to soar again in recent weeks.
About 10% of the value of world trade flows through the Suez Canal. In 2020, some 19,000 ships passed through it.
Photo credit @ Suez Canal Authority